As much as the late-model GM world loves vehicles packing LS- and LT-series engines, it’s easy to forget that there was a time where we didn’t have those two engine platforms to rely on. If we wanted an EFI-powered ride, we turned to TPI-equipped small-block Camaros, Firebirds, and Corvettes. If we wanted to think outside the box a little bit, then there were the turbocharged V6 Regals that could easily be modified to run into the 12-second bracket.
However, if going directly toe-to-toe with the high-revving FWD 4-bangers from Japan were more your thing, you had very little to choose from, from the Big Three as a whole. The simple and obvious go-to was merely picking up a V8-equipped pony car from GM or Ford, but if you wanted the same unique challenges as the imports, then most enthusiasts had to switch over to Dodge for their turbocharged 2.2L front-drivers. However, if you kept your ear close to the street, and to what the manufacturers were doing, then you would have heard a little something about the Quad4-powered Cutlass Calais.’
Now, there were a few different versions of these cars available, the more mainstream examples being available from 1987-1991, packing 150-160hp, depending on year. But in the short window of 1990-1991, Oldsmobile released a more performance-focused spec of the engine (paired with a 5-speed manual transmission), and the car itself, capable of 180hp in 1990, and 190hp in the 1991 442 W41. The latter of which, was limited to roughly 200 units and offered incredible performance for the era.
Those numbers may not seem that impressive now, but let’s not forget that less than a decade later, Honda’s Civic Si and Integrated Type-R cranked out 160hp and 195hp, respectively, albeit, with slightly smaller engines. For 1991, a naturally-aspirated 190hp 2.3L 4-cylinder, from The States simply impressed.
Slightly different versions of that engine platform would go on to power other GM performance pocket rockets of the era, including the Cavalier Z24, Beretta GTZ, Sunbird GT, Grand Am SE, Buick Skylark, and Olds’ own replacement for the Calais, the Achieva SCX W41.
In the video above, Jay Leno and Jeff Szafraniec, the owner of the all-original ’91 Quad442 W41 depicted in the video, dive deep into the cars, the engines that powered it, and Oldsmobile’s connection to SCCA racing during that time period. This is probably one of our favorites among the Jay Leno’s Garage series — enjoy!